Fact or fiction - it costs £100,000 to become a Pilot?

The aim of this blog is to offer some insight into price options to become a Commercial Airline Pilot and dispel the myth that it costs £100,000!

There’s a common and generally accepted rule that it costs £100,000 to become a Pilot and to an extent that is factual, but the truth is that it only costs that amount of money if your training is Airline mentored or you choose the integrated route through one of the three major European flight training schools such as L3 Harris Airline Academy, CAE Oxford or FTE Jerez.

The aim of this blog is to dispel the myth about the costs of becoming a Pilot, but before we do that there are some important questions you should ask yourself before you or perhaps your child embark on a professional flight training course:

1. What is your budget?
2. Do you want to complete your training in as short a timescale as possible?
3. Are you treating the course as an alternative to University?
4. Are you already employed with associated lifestyle commitments e.g. a mortgage or family?
5. How employable are you already? E.g. do you have a wealth of life skills acquired through previous employment such as team work, management and communication skills?

The answer to these questions will help you decide which route to the flight deck is best for you.

The reality is that the cost of becoming a Pilot ranges from £50000 to £100,000 and it’s a key point to note that however much you spend you end up with exactly the same licence - a frozen Airline Transport Pilots Licence.

So, why spend £100,000 with one of the big three flight schools? Well for this, you are on a integrated course with a duration of approximately 18 months, accommodation, flight equipment and some meals included.

We hear you ask, “but if I go to one of the main three flight schools, I’ll get a job with easyJet, Ryanair or one of their other client airlines”. This isn’t true, because you must remember there is no such thing as a guaranteed job in aviation. What you might get on completion of your course is the offer of an interview with one of their client airlines and that will depend on certain criteria:

1. Is that airline recruiting when you graduate? 
2. Did you make a good impression on your instructors and the school during your training or were you a difficult outspoken student who acquired a bad reputation?
3. Did you pass all of your ground and flight exams first time round?
4. Could you cope with the steep learning curve of the jet orientation and multi crew cooperation course?

The fact is that not all graduates from the major flight schools get a job and the figure is nowhere near the advertised figures. We’ll be blunt, the flight schools stake their reputation on you joining a client Airline and if on graduation they do not think you will pass the tough Airline type rating course, then they won’t put you forward for interview. On your part you should aim to pass all of your 14 ground exams with an average of 85% or more and go on further to pass your flight tests first time round.

AirlinePrep have worked with many clients who have graduated from these schools and they were not put forward because they failed two or three ground exams, a flight test or were slower than their course compatriots in picking up the finer skills of multi crew cooperation.

So, what other options are there?

Integrated for under £80000 - yes that’s correct and you can enrol on this course with FTA Global at Shoreham. For that, you’ll complete the same 18 month integrated course as the main three (L3, CAE or FTE) and you’ll end up with the same licence. On top of this you will need to factor in some accommodation and living costs but with the help of the school you can conservatively work on a additional £10000 to £15000 living costs during your training. That could be a lot less if you live at home whilst training! Other schools you may like to look at at are Stapleford, Bournemouth Commercial Flight Training, Aeros, Tayside Aviation, Airways Exeter, Airways Academy and Multiflight.

With your accommodation costs as an extra it’s possible that you could complete your training for under £100,000!

We did mention that you can complete your training for approximately £50000 - that’s by undertaking a modular course. Modular means you study for each component of the licence over a time that suits you and you can continue to work your day job or career, whilst studying for your ground exams of an evening and completing your flight training on weekends and during your annual leave. A good starting point to learn about modular is to visit the Wings Alliance website.

But you’ve heard airlines don’t like modular students because they have completed their licence at a variety of flight schools and there is no continuity of training as with an integrated course. There was a time that this was generally true, but airlines now accept that modular students tend to already have more employment and life experience, which equips them with the important non technical skills such as team work, leadership, communication, decision making and customer service. These are the skills that airlines require from their pilots.

There are also enhanced multi crew courses,  known as APS-MCC, with specific airline relevant training aimed at helping modular and integrated pilots bridge their training on completion of the commercial pilot’s licence.  We work closely with our partners at Jet MASTERCLASS whose students have joined airlines including Ryanair, West Atlantic, Aurigny and Loganair.

Whichever course you choose is ultimately dependent on the answers to the questions earlier in this blog. Do your research, attend Pilot Careers Live, visit the flight schools and make a decision that is best for you.

One hidden cost that is not often discussed, is that of the airline type rating. When you join an Airline, they will require you to complete a 3 months training course learning how to fly an aircraft in their fleet (the Boeing 737 for example) in accordance with the company operating procedures. The cost of this type rating ranges from £5000 to £35000 depending on aircraft type and it can be paid entirely up front by the airline, who subsequently recoup that cost from you by salary deductions throughout the first few years of your career or you might be expected to pay it up front. Another arrangement is a bond, whereby the airline sponsor the cost of the type rating and if you leave that airline within a certain time frame, then you are expected to pay all or some of the loan back.

Of course, when you do obtain your commercial pilot’s licence, remember that all you have is the same licence as every other flight school graduate. The difference between you and the other students will now depend on your CV being noticed and how you perform during the Airline pilot interview and assessment. Interview preparation can be the key to your success and so please read our blog about whether some preparation is right for you.